HOW OFTEN CAN YOU EXPECT
A FAVORABLE HAND?
By Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman, and his poetic sidekick Sumner A. Ingmark, have been illuminating the dark recesses of casino gambling for more than a dozen years. Mr. Krigman is especially well known for sharing his insights into the mathematics underlying the various games (including blackjack), the influence of volatility and skewness as well as edge on bankroll during the course of a session, and the impact of betting as well as decision strategies on expected performance. A searchable archive of Mr. Krigman's prose and Mr. Ingmark's muse is online athttp://www.iconworldwide.com/winningways/search.php.
Most sophisticated blackjack buffs follow Basic Strategy in deciding whether to stand, hit, double down, split pairs, or surrender. Even acutely adept card counters introduce few variations to the rules–and, then, they do so relatively infrequently. This is because the benefit of counting is chiefly derived from raising bets when the composition of the shoe suggests the overall statistical expectation increases, and conversely lower bets when the expectation decreases (i.e., the house has the edge).
By adhering to Basic Strategy and betting the same amount every round, or varying wagers pretty much by guess or by gosh, solid citizens can hold the house advantage (or edge) to about 0.40 and 0.43 percent in six- and eight-deck games respectively (with standard rules including resplitting allowed to four hands except aces). These figures are good to know if only to impress one's friends and in-laws. Unfortunately, they tend to be abstractions and don't contribute much to players' comprehension or anticipation of the ebb and flow of a session.
Mathematically, 0.40 and 0.43 percent mean that the house earns an average of 40 and 43 hundredths a cent respectively per dollar wagered prior to the deal. Being averages, the percentages don't represent real dough the casino actually squeezes out of the folks at the table. They reflect the net the casino takes in over what it gives out when the bean counters tally the activity on the game over a long period. Knowing the edge, therefore, doesn't help bettors make decisions in the midst of the melee.
Another limitation of applying edge during a game is that...
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